In one of his Meditations, Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) wrote: “To stand up – or to be set up?” (7:1)
It could be that the United States was “set up” or provoked into invading Afghanistan and Iraq. If so, given the consequences, the harm inflicted upon the United States is senseless and cruel in the extreme. I am thinking of all those who were hurt, all those who suffered horrific losses, but at the moment, the fate of those who came back is foremost in my thoughts.
The United States did not find Weapons of Mass Destruction in the countries it invaded. Nor did these countries harbor Bin Laden. Bin Laden eluded capture for nearly ten years, to be found in Pakistan, not by soldiers, but by the intelligence community, and then seized by commandos: the élite Navy Seals.
So today, the United States and the world mourn not only the death of the victims of the attack of September 11, 2001: New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, but the United States and the world also mourn soldiers killed or maimed in serving their nation and veterans whose mental stability may be forever lost. And we mourn the suffering and humiliation endured by tortured prisoners most of whom were innocent but some of whom died under torture as well as the suffering, a sense of guilt, that may forever torment the torturers. Torture is not acceptable.
For my part, I suspect that no one won and that we may never know whether or not the United States “[stood] up” or was “set up.”
But we do know the story of 9/11. It is the story of one devastating day, the day of the attacks, followed by years of devastation, not to mention the final bill.
I feel compassion for the families that lost a dear one or dear ones on 9/11. I also feel compassion for the families who will never again be complete because a soldier died, as well as for the couples who are now forever separated because a soldier died.
But also, and perhaps most of all, I feel compassion for those soldiers who came back but came back to an empty world, those veterans who may be disoriented, but are physically fit, and don’t even have a job.
The dead are spoken of as heroes while many of these veterans are sleeping under bridges. That’s not right.
So, why not make today the last day of the many days of grief that followed the attacks of 9/11?
Why not simply pay the bill—that’s just money—and let life be, perhaps not pentiful, but nevertheless generous and meaningful.